In the first of our ‘InsideWUCC’ series, coach Yew Eng Ng and captains Max Halden and Cath O’Neill discuss the main takeaways for Friskee from WUCC2018.
‘Endzone decides’ gender rules suck compared to ‘alternating ratio’ aka ABBA.
We get it. Change needs to be incremental. But after having gona ABBA in Australia, it was frustrating to go back to endzone decides. Teams assumed 4M:3F as a default and often exceeded the 15 second time limit to signal their gender choice (again, assuming 4M would be the default). It just grated. Looking forward to a fully ABBA future (gimme, gimme, gimme).
The level of competition in the Mixed division has increased.
This could very well be true in every division but it was certainly true in the Mixed division. In 2010 and 2014, there was a significant drop off near the bottom of the competition that guaranteed you a few easier games in pool play. This would also be true of many teams which often tried to hide a few very new players amongst a few superstars. This was less the case this year - teams had more depth across the board (although a few superstars, usually men, would still often carry otherwise OK teams).
The picture is a little less clear at the top for the Mixed division. While non-US teams featured in both the singled gender finals, in Mixed the top 4 teams were all American, with the eight rounded out by two European and one Canadian team. What’s it going to take to knock off the Americans in the mixed division at Clubs? Well, we have some thoughts…
Consistency on offence is key.
This will probably not come as a surprise but also, as a whole in Aus Ultimate, we’re not really doing it. We had no problem getting blocks against the best teams in our division. Our defensive offence conversions were also probably about on par with the best teams we played (maybe a little below). But it was our offensive consistency that let us down. The ability to hold the disc, make good decisions, offer and find intelligent bail out options if stalls were getting high, was not at the same level as the Top 4/8.
NB: This is not just a problem for the “offense line”, although that’s often where the rubber hits the road. We need to be more consistent across the board.
We don’t have a simple answer to the offensive efficiency question. But looking at a team in the Mixed division that tended to have better offensive completions than us might provide some clues - Pie Wagon. They build structures and drill them hard. They have a bunch of principles around dump cutting and clearing which they stick to. But then also have a bunch of Worlds-level handlers who anchor the O line and have excellent connections with each other (and build strong connections with their receivers) and can be creative on high stall counts or when in power position. Oh and having a bigger range of people that can punt it (read: girls as well as boys) really helps.
The offensive efficiency part of the problem will look different to each team but we think the next crop of WUCC teams would benefit from a strong focus on offence - we’re Aussies...we’ll get blocks ;)
We need to stop boys punting it to boys.
Put simply, there are still Mixed teams that primarily punt it between their boys every chance they get. We need a few more strategies that can counteract this in the Mixed division. It was exciting to see one Canadian team play a femme zone (men play match, women play zone) against us after it had worked against them at 2015 WU24UC - other countries are obviously thinking about this as well. We need to keep evolving different strategies (including cross-gender matchups/transitions, which we saw very few of at WUCC) to play against very different styles to what we’re now used to in elite Aus mixed.
A true differentiator at WUCC.
If you weren’t already convinced, there’s a weight of anecdotal evidence we can offer to suggest that mental strength really matters at Worlds.
Americans/American teams just know they are going to win. They know it. And if they don’t, they project it anyway. Witness GRUT’s capitulation in the opening game. See how many times US teams win the arm wrestle in a tough, trading game. We definitely did not play at our peak in our pre-quarter against the US - a lot of this is a response to the high level of physical play but there was undoubtedly a strong mental component. We need to have confidence, not cockiness, and project that, consistently. Even when (especially when) we’re losing.
We had a blast cheering on the Colony boys (note from Max - never thought I’d type that sentence!), especially in their QF against Ring of Fire. We got behind our hotel-mates Panthers Bern and helped them to snatch their first win of the tournament. We came from behind sooo many times thanks to the energy we bought from the sideline (we also probably lost years off our lives from the stress). Spark your own comeback. And do it from 0-0. But, as one of our teammates noted, MST is not just about major issues, swings and head space problems, MST is about true consistency of playing at peak. We often had to mount huge comebacks because we didn’t have that consistency factor.
Running mental strength training is often something that falls off the list for captains and coaches in WUCC campaigns. But it’s for exactly this reason (that not every team is doing it) that finding ways to embed it into your processes - trainings, warm-ups, team meetings etc - will be a huge differentiating factor going forward for WUCC teams.
World Clubs is the absolute best. We had our eyes on the top 8 and we didn’t make it but it was a dream to play with so many amazing players, to have pride in how we played, share so many memorable experiences and take a club which we’ve all poured hours/years of passion, sweat and love into over the years to the biggest show on earth.
Every club should have WUCC as their goal...we’ve joked about it since 2008 and finally getting there was exactly as good as we’d always imagined it. Time to start building for WUCC2022.